Dam Safety · Disasters

A tale of two dam breaches: Spencer (USA) and Tiware (India)

On March 14, 2019 the Spencer dam on Niobrara river, located south of Spencer in Nebraska state in USA breached, killing four people in the downstream. The Investigation Report about the disaster has been made public now on April 24, 2020. The remains of Spencer Dam — a skeleton of concrete and steel amid a sea of sand — became one of the iconic images of the March 2019 “bomb cyclone” flood that caused billions of dollars in damage across Nebraska.

Less than four months later, on July 2, 2019, Tiware dam breached[i] in Chiplun taluka of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, killing 23 people. The then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on July 6, 2019 announced a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the disaster, the SIT was to submit a report in two months, but the report was submitted in January 2020, but the report is not in public domain. When SANDRP talked with the chairman of the committee, he disclosed that the report has been submitted to the department in early Feb 2020 and it can only be made public by the department once they accept the report. He revealed that the SIT had found that there were issues with material of construction (masonry in place of Concrete) and design of the conduit of the dam. He agreed that the report should be made public promptly, but expressed his helplessness in face of the norms in India. SANDRP also called Secretary, Department of Water Conservation, Govt of Maharashtra, but got no response.

There is a lot to learn for us in India in comparing the two dam breach incidents and how both are treated.

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